Skip to main content

California beach goes heavy on the anchovies

By Carter Maguire, Special to CNN
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Sat July 12, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Millions of anchovies swarmed the surf off La Jolla Shores, Ca.
  • No school this large has been so close in 30 years
  • The causes are likely fluctuating oceanic temperatures

(CNN) -- Who ordered the anchovies?

That's what beach-goers may be asking after a huge swarm of the oily fish descended on the shallow waters of La Jolla Shores, California, this week.

"It is rare to see so many anchovy abutting the surf zone," said Professor Dave Checkley of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). "More usually, schools are seen hundreds of yards to many miles offshore." The surf zone is the area in which waves break on shore and humans normally swim.

Surfers paddle near the dark anchovy cloud  Surfers paddle near the dark anchovy cloud
Surfers paddle near the dark anchovy cloudSurfers paddle near the dark anchovy cloud

Schools of anchovy can range from hundreds to millions of fish, said Checkley, who gave this school "a very rough estimate" of between 1 million and 100 million anchovies.

Anchovy influx leads to shark run in

"In my approximately 30 years at the SIO starting in 1970, I've not seen this before," Checkley said.

Changing ocean temperatures may be the cause of the anchovy influx. The North Pacific is currently transitioning into a cooler state, which is favorable to anchovies, said Checkley. He added that, while this particular phenomenon is unusual, anchovy populations naturally fluctuate on the scale of decades.

Scientists weren't the only one taking note of the army of anchovies. The California sea lion, which preys on the small fish, seemed "happy as a clam," Checkley said.

"Human beach-goers and surfers similarly [were happy], enjoying a rare sight of an abundance of schooling fish within easy swimming distance," said Checkley. "For those able to snorkel among the anchovy, it is a wonderful experience...fish, fish, fish!"

By Wednesday, the school had departed the surf zone near La Jolla Shores. According to Checkley, the anchovies could have moved farther offshore just as easily as they could have slid along the coast to the north or south.

30 mesmerizing underwater photos

Swimmer bitten by great white shark off California beach

Awe-inspiring animal migrations that send people flocking

Part of complete coverage on
Science news
updated 3:34 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Nichelle Nichols has spent her whole life going where no one has gone before, and at 81 she's still as sassy and straight-talking as you'd expect from an interstellar explorer.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province.
updated 8:10 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
As fans of "Grey's Anatomy," "ER" and any other hospital-based show can tell you, emergency-room doctors are fighting against time.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Ask 100 robotics scientists why they're inspired to create modern-day automatons and you may get 100 different answers.
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
From the air, the Namibian desert looks like it has a bad case of chicken pox.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
The trend for nature-inspired designs has spread across industries from crab-style deep-sea vessels to insect-inspired buildings.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Sun May 25, 2014
Consider it the taxonomist's equivalent of a People magazine's Most Beautiful List.
updated 11:32 AM EDT, Fri May 9, 2014
For the first time, scientists have shown it is possible to alter the biological alphabet and still have a living organism that passes on the genetic information.
updated 7:48 AM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
Do we really want to go the route of "Jurassic Park"?
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
Catch a train from the sky! Perhaps in the future, the high-rise superstructures could help revolutionize the way we travel.
updated 10:58 AM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
In a nondescript hotel ballroom last month at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, Andras Forgacs offered a rare glimpse at the sci-fi future of food.
updated 10:12 AM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014
For a Tyrannosaurus rex looking for a snack, nothing might have tasted quite like the "chicken from hell."
updated 6:29 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
Everyone is familiar with Tyrannosaurus rex, but humanity is only now meeting its much smaller Arctic cousin.
updated 12:12 PM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
At about 33 feet long, weighing 4 to 5 tons and baring large blade-shaped teeth, the dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was a formidable creature.
updated 6:43 AM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
This Pachyrhinosaurus can go to the head of its class.
updated 8:04 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Science is still trying to work out how exactly we reason through moral problems, and how we judge others on the morality of their actions. But patterns are emerging.
updated 7:06 PM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
A promising way to stop a deadly disease, or an uncomfortable step toward what one leading ethicist called eugenics?
updated 8:07 PM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Seattle paleontologists safely removed the largest fossilized mammoth tusk discovered in the region from a construction site.
updated 6:13 AM EDT, Tue April 23, 2013
A mysterious, circular structure, with a diameter greater than the length of a Boeing 747 jet, has been discovered submerged about 30 feet underneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
updated 5:25 PM EST, Fri January 17, 2014
Every corner of the planet offers some sort of natural peculiarity with an explanation that makes us wish we'd studied harder in junior high Earth science class.
updated 8:20 AM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Deep in a remote, hot, dry patch of northwestern Australia lies one of the earliest detectable signs of life on the planet, tracing back nearly 3.5 billion years, scientists say.
updated 3:10 PM EDT, Wed September 4, 2013
We leave genetic traces of ourselves wherever we go -- in a strand of hair left on the subway or in saliva on the side of a glass at a cafe.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT